Actually done some writing. For reasons I've probably been over and over in recent posts, things are looking mostly up for a change and I’ve felt like working on things again.
Ladies, gentlemen, boths and neithers, I give you:
Title: Faith in the Path
Rating: Rated T/Teen and Up for some shooting, peril, O’Brien’s mouth, and references to war. I make no apologies.
The orb of time has business with DS9 and the crew of a certain Enterprise ship classification NX-01. Episodically canontastic. Takes place after DS9 5x19 Ties of Blood and Water and ENT 4x21, AKA the Actual Last Episode. Alert: I have been and always shall be a TnT shipper.
I do not own Star Trek in any of its forms or any of the characters. This is all for fun, not for profit. Unless you add me to any favourites lists or leave comments. Then I profit in the knowledge that someone thinks it’s pretty good.
Contains: The crew of DS9, the crew of Enterprise. Bad guys, uncertain times and some bodily damage and hurt/comfort.
Linky-link-link: HERE at An Archive of Our Own under my name TozaBoma (because they don’t re-edit your stuff later) and HERE at Fanfiction dot net under my name Mardy Lass.
If you even visit the page, I thank you.
A while ago I wrote about how I’d finally left a place of work that I no longer fitted, for so many reasons. I wrote about how enthusiastic I was to be starting something new. Well it’s been two months at my new job. Result?
Pretty fucking happy, to be honest.
When I bring things up that need changing, instead of the old ‘Do not change that. Do not change anything. We’ve done it like this for thousands of years because the first person who did fucked it up and now it can never be changed’ that I got at my old job, I now get ‘Do you think it’ll work better this new way? We’ll try it and see. Let me know how you get on. But it should be fine.’
It’s a lot to get used to. The freedom to actually effect change and make things better is something you always dream of, but once you get it… It feels weird. And then the secondary consequence kicks in: Am I right? What if I’m full of shit and this idea crashes and burns? What if it’s worse than what we had before? How do I know I’m right?
Over time you get used to the uncertainty, you get used to the risk and you realise that, as the great Baz Luhrmann once said, ‘your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.’ That line, that one collection of words from a track that came on my iPhone halfway to work, changed my entire outlook one morning. The incredible idea that it’s not me that isn’t sure, it’s everyone, all humans in general, made me a lot happier about the uncertainty of ideas I came up with to help me transition into my new job.
And then I got paid. I had more money left over than I thought once I’d paid all my bills and also for some unforeseen work done to my car (which is now running like a fucking F1 car, thanks for asking). It was weird - I could save some money. So I did. And when I got paid again, I saved more. And then, one day at the supermarket, I bought something not because I needed it, but because I’d always wanted to know what it tasted like but it had always been too expensive.
That was epic, for me. I found I could have more than one pair of trousers for work. I bought new work shoes, because quite frankly the others were rough as a bear’s arse and should have been thrown out a long time ago. I did my food shop and had provisions left over at the end of the fortnight - I actually have tinned and packaged food stored, that I don’t have to stretch out till the next big shop. I changed my credit card to one of them zero percent balance transfer things - which means I can actually pay it off in my life time. I paid a garage to do work on my car, instead of trying to half-arse it myself.
It’s all new, it’s all strange, but it’s slowly making me slip into this idea that I can do things other than ignore everything I can’t afford. I can take my blinkers off and look at ideas.
I was just getting used to this, and thinking how easy it was to hire a car to go off to another city for a long weekend to attend a convention (in the same country!), when someone needed my help with their payslip. I am payroll after all, and it was me that produced it. We talked over the meanings of all the addings and subtractings thereon, and they went away happy.
But I wasn’t. It suddenly dawned on me what had happened. I wasn’t one of them any more. I was now one of those people who Had, one of those people who wasn’t living hand to mouth, dependent on their pay cheque, because they were not a Had Not.
Progress, for me. But now I felt bad for having managed to lift myself out of the mud and make something a little better for myself. I’m still on literally half the salary of people close to me, but I don’t care. This salary is more than I’ve ever had, and for a while I was proud of it. Now I’m not sure if I deserve it - what makes me more deserving than that person with with payslip?
The answer, the Dax part of me says, is experience. Theirs lies somewhere useful, but not rare. Mine, luckily, lies in a field that normally attracts more responsibility and therefore risk - and reward. Which Rule of Acquisition is it that states ‘the riskier the road, the greater the profit’? Whichever one it is, it’s not wrong.
So why do I feel like Major Kira, having to confront a man who is exactly the person she was before she herself was lifted up from the mud into a better position, due to her experience?
Why do I feel guilty as I walk past people, on two-thirds my salary for a harder physical job than mine, to my car and then drive home with an iPhone 5S connected to the stereo, offering me Siri to help choose music and text people hands-free as I get there?
Underdog. It’s an underdog thing. Kira was always the underdog - until she was given a commission in the new military and a fancy new job. I always thought I was the underdog - not qualified, not properly trained, just getting by through teaching myself and working long hours. I’m not that person any more. Now I ask for training, and they provide it. Now I leave on time and enjoy my drive home. My writing has picked up again, and now it’s happier, more whimsical, more fun than it has been in about two years. Everything seems to be easier, the wheels more greased, more doors open to me.
It’s true what they say. You can’t sing the blues in an air-conditioned room. Maybe I should just suck it up and get over it. What price serenity?
People often ask me ‘Star Wars or Star Trek?’. That’s like choosing between bacon and sausages. Star Wars is without a doubt a big part of my life - I grew up worshiping spaceships, and the people behind them. I loved the world building, the myriad different places and people, the way anyone could be seen as a background character and suddenly have Timothy Zahn write an entire novel about them. That freedom of space travel, of the way characters had a ship and did whatever they wanted with it. It was magic.
But Star Trek is a-whole-nother animal. It’s a system of beliefs, an idea - an ideal - that changed my perspective on people, places and even Star Wars. And let me tell you why.
At the heart of Star Trek you have its ideals. It started off in 1966 as a show where people in the far-flung future had already outgrown petty things like race, gender, age, ability. Instead you had this wonderful notion that people could just be themselves and not try to get along despite their differences, but work together brilliantly because of their differences. There was a spaceship, and aliens who either just wanted to be understood or just wanted the humans to understand themselves. There was a firm triangle of command and support - Kirk, Spock and Bones are legendary. Just one year after over 500 non-violent civil rights marchers were attacked by law enforcement officers while trying to defend the need for African American voting rights, here was a show that had a black person on the bridge in a pivotal position - and a female one, at that. It had an alien crew member as part of the trusted three, in an age where Communist witch hunts and ‘they’re not like us’ arguments were rife. And, bearing that last point in mind, it had a Russian on the bridge, and a Japanese character. Star Trek was indeed pushing the envelope, in terms of what it could get away with and what it needed to get across. It was life-changing, while at the same time reassuring; if the the top two blokes in command could do what they did, if the crew around them supported and followed them because of their actions, why couldn’t real life do the same?
So it boils down to the two basic ideals that made Star Trek what it is: that the universe is full of infinite diversity in infinite combinations, put against the backdrop of the Prime Directive. Simply put, everyone is and should be free to be whatever they are, but at the same time, it’s not for you to interfere if you think they’re doing it wrong. And that, my friends, is what the 2010s are all about. We have stories of ‘gay marriage’ (otherwise known as ‘marriage’) causing controversy all over the world. We have stories of transgender people becoming more and more important and apparent in media. We still have problems with people of colour getting or keeping acting roles. More people are protesting at the inequalities of this life we’ve made for ourselves, and due to social media platforms they are getting heard. ‘The twenty-first century is when everything changes’, as Jack Harkness was fond of saying. But changes into what?
I could go into the Donald Trumps of this world, and how they are throwing us back into the Dark Ages. I could say that everything he is doing, and stirring up in one of the most financially influential countries on the planet, is tantamount to kicking Gene Roddenberry and his like-minded crew in the balls wearing hobnail boots. But I won’t. Instead I’ll say he has to be stopped - whether that means letting people vote him in as President, and thereby giving him enough rope to hang himself so he’s voted out or impeached; or just trusting that the average American is the product of how Obama has left the country a better place, and will reject Trump as the factually racist, misogynist and downright harmful person he is.
Does this make Star Trek less important? No. It makes Star Trek more needed than ever. People still need that vision of What Could Be; every person, no matter what colour or gender, needs something to believe in. In 1966, Nichelle Nicholls received fan mail from little girls of colour who were just stoked to see someone like themselves on TV. Famously, Whoopi Goldberg saw her and was so excited she shouted through the house to her mother “Come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!”
As far as other kinds of social norms go, Star Trek gave us one of the first interracial kisses on TV (after the ITV show ‘You in Your Small Corner’ showed Lloyd Reckord and Elizabeth MacLennan kissing in 1962). The episode ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’ showed Kirk and Uhura educating viewers as to what had been going on for hundreds of years with no ill effects, and yet made a percentage of the filming crew and audience squeamish. With Shatner and Nicholl’s judicious sabotage of alternative versions, the scene was not only shot but got through - and it challenged people. The Next Generation gave us a body swap and gender issue in the case of the Trill with whom the doctor falls in love, in season four’s ‘The Host’. It fell short of the obvious answer the audience was rooting for, but for 1991, it wasn’t bad in the knocking on the glass ceiling department. It was a story line that was pretty much retackled and fixed by the Deep Space Nine episode ‘Rejoined’, aired in 1995, where Dax has to work with Kahn, a scientist - and her wife in a previous life. The first (but not last) lesbian kiss in Star Trek was met with anger, backlashes and utter regression. But in the same way as the Star Trek episode ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’, all it did was bring something that people do every day into the limelight - and letting people know it’s ok.
What I’m saying is, Star Trek is more relevant now than ever before. People (including children) need to see how things could be, how they can make the world better. I’m old, and I’m jaded, but even I believe anything is possible after watching a Star Trek movie (an even numbered one - or an odd numbered one if it’s one of the 2009+ reboots).
With a new series apparently in development, I have high hopes for how they will cast and write it. After all, in 2016, you have a huge responsibility. You have to have an idea of who your demographic is and what they need from it, and in the same way as Whoopi Goldberg gets to see a ‘black lady’ on TV, you have to be representative of the planet. A genderfluid Captain maybe, as someone who’s got their life together and accepts what they are - and so does everyone else. The heterosexual crew being in the minority, as gay, bisexual and omnisexual crew members just quietly get on with their lives without their sexuality being their defining trait. The offset of (identifying) male-female split more true to the planet (i.e. 51% are actually female). Remember that shot of the Enterprise crew members from Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979?
More of that, and less of JJ Abrams / network / studio nagging and worrying over how they’re not going to make money because they’re not doing exactly the same as last time.
Star Trek is about moving forward, about breaking new ground, about shining a light on things that are wrong with our world by playing out a metaphor on another. So let’s do that again; let’s have a new crew, a new ship, a way of working through what’s wrong with the planet and making people aware of how they are the first point of call to effect change.
At time of writing, I’m hopeful for the new series. We have Bryan Fuller (who gave us the DS9 episodes ‘Empok Nor’ and the stellar ‘The Darkness and the Light’, before going onto Voyager) and Nicholas Meyer (who gave us the screenplays for Star Trek II, IV and VI - otherwise known as three of the four best Star Trek movies) attached to the presently unnamed new show. Time will tell what they do with it, but I’m wishing and hoping they actually break ground, as Enterprise completely failed to do. The network there even backed off from showing an interspecies romance several times - and that was as vanilla as it could have been as they were human and Vulcan, and heterosexual. The aliens and wars used were nothing we hadn’t seen before, and it seemed that many of the episodes just simply finished instead of gearing up for something greater.
All I want is to move forward. I await the new show with great anticipation - but part of me is already steeling myself for disappointment. If they can pull something out of the bag - the next Farscape, Mr Robot, or Agent Carter, then I’ll be happy. But it has to be something new - after all, that’s Star Trek.
Recently (and by that I mean cumulatively speaking over the past six months), things at work have been breaking down. Communication, software, discipline, the will to live. All of them have been directly influenced by the departure of a manager. They knew months in advance they would be taking anything up to a year off. They did nothing to, temporarily or otherwise, plug the gap they would be leaving. Neither did they impart necessary information to any of the people left behind.
‘Left behind’. I say that like us staff were forgotten luggage. It’d be more fitting to describe us as ‘abandoned’. Because that is what happened. Left to fend for ourselves, with no instructions, no insight, no experience, no leadership. You get to guess what happened next.
Some of it was good; it brought out the best in some, the hitherto undiscovered talents of others, the ability to share, protect and plan for our own little team and fuck everyone else. Not because we wanted to, but because you can only do so much in your twenty plus hours of indentured overtime a week, and you have to start putting your own department in order before you have any time for anyone else.
Some of it was bad; stress levels accelerated at an alarming rate. The priorities were dealt with and everything else fell by the wayside. Other departments began to get shitty with things not being done how they’d always been done, even though how they’d always been done was wrong and we were putting things right, and processing everything the correct way.
All of this caused friction. All of this caused shortness of tempers, heated exchanges and complaints. It did not, however hard we tried, bring about better conditions for anyone.
At this point I should explain that I feel about nine hundred and three years old. Like Dax, I’ve had many lives - I’ve lived on another continent, I’ve done so many jobs and had to assimilate so many differing situations, be so many different people. Couple that with a writing hobby where you study conflict as a tool to change things, where you have to extrapolate what consequences will follow, where you know that ‘Dances With Wolves’, ‘The Last Samurai’ and ‘Avatar’ share a cookie-cutter. Take all that, mix it with acknowledging how frustrated you are with offering to effect change and being shut down every time, and you stand back and have Dax moment.
Wait, 24 year-old you says. Look at the pattern. We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Back in 2001. And what happened next? Do you want that to happen again?
Ah, says 39 year-old you, but this is different.
Is it? says 36 year-old you. Because from where I’m standing, this looks like Badly Run Business of 2013 all over again.
Do you seriously want to have to stand by with towels and mop up the aftermath again? says 28 year-old you. You and I both know that’s where we’re headed.
This time I listened to myself. Everyone has a line that they draw, that if something happens to cross that line, you know you’re out and it’s time to act. This time I stopped myself redrawing that line. I kept it where it was, and the moment it was breached, me and my faithful companion Billy the MacBook Air got on the net and trawled for jobs. I received offers, I went through them, I attended interviews, and I was offered a job a week later.
Now to another vexation. I told my boss (her title is manager but she’s never done that in her life, so ‘boss’ it is), that I needed an afternoon off to attend a job interview. She was happy I was looking for things. I don’t understand her logic, but she was not obstructive in any way so it made it easier for everyone. I kept her informed of the selection process. When I came in with my letter of resignation saying I was working the whole of February as my notice, she was not surprised at all and congratulated me.
Here’s what didn’t happen next. She knew she was leaving the last day of January. She did not attempt to hire anyone to work in my stead. She left knowing that I was leaving, and there would be no-one and nothing to replace me.
At this point I had two options: be completely fucked off for the staff I was leaving behind and rant and rave about getting someone in to replace me, or simply leave it for someone else to deal with. After all, I was leaving for precisely this reason; things get left for others to sort out, and I was done with being that person who made it their business to sort this shit out, sheerly because no-one knew enough to be able to do it or no-one knew enough to realise it was necessary.
I should also tell you at this point that I was shouted down (literally shouted down, in an office full of my co-workers) by my boss for providing help. I was told to ‘stop interfering’ and it would get done. 1, this made me lose all respect for the person doing the unprofessional and frankly quite childish shouting, and 2, made me change the criteria I use for choosing my battles. Priorities shifted, things were clarified for me, and I decided there and then that nothing could save this company from going to Tartarus in a speeding chariot and it was literally not my job to care.
So I worked my notice. I did everything I was asked to do and more. The staff bought me very generous gifts, considering it would have been them contributing to and making the gifts and leaving card happen. Everyone congratulated me, wished me luck, had kind words to say as I exited the building for the last time. And for the first time in a long time, I felt optimistic.
I start my new job on Monday. Whatever happens and however weird it feels to be working somewhere new, I’m trying to prepare myself by breaking the last mindset of the last two years. STOP thinking ‘do you really expect this place to do anything right?’. STOP thinking ‘why did I think this would work?’. STOP thinking ‘it’s only eight p.m. so I’m not technically staying late anyway’. It’s all behind me, all done, all over with. I won’t have to pay for parking any more. I won’t have to be there until stupid o’clock to get things done. I won’t be having to fix other people’s monumental fuck-ups and make reparation to government departments or offices. It’s all new, all fresh, and it actually feels good to be so optimistic.
Of course, over the next few months as I get used to the job, this will all change. I’ll get to know all of the new company’s shortfalls, all their problems, all their cons. But I’m confident (says 39 year-old me) that I’ve seen how bad things could be, and I’ve come through that ok. The actual worst that could happen now is the company being perfect and going out out business three months from now. Seriously - everything else has happened to me in my work life, and I’m ready for it. I’m just not ready for it to be a good place to work. But that’s something I can happily adjust to.
For now, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I have something new to work on. It’s going to change my whole life, in terms of how much free time I have, and how much I don’t have to worry about things, and the extra money I’ll have to pay off credit cards etc. due to the modern going-rate they pay instead of the adjusted pounds, shillings and pence I was getting up until yesterday.
It’s a new day, people. You thought Mulder getting his groove back because he shook a lizard man’s hand was uplifting? It’s got nothing on my enthusiasm for getting stuck into a new job on Monday. Nothing.
Here be SPOILERS for Limitless season 1!
Ah, Limitless. That show that I started to watch because the film had such a good premise (and execution). That show that developed into a screwball comedy \ detective mystery \ personality exploration \ reason for feeling better about your Tuesday night.
For those of you just joining us, the TV show begins a little while after the movie (of the same name) ended. Bradley Cooper’s character is still on his NZT pills (that unlock pretty much most of the brain, giving you instant access to all your memories, your random thoughts, your ability to put things together in a big picture, etc.). He’s now a Senator and running for President of the US. However, the new main character, poor wee Brian Finch, is a down-and-out, can’t-really-get-his-band-together bloke whose parents just want him to become something.
Cue a little accident with NZT pills and Brian experiences his entire brain for twelve hours. Of course the come-down afterwards is not as nice, but seeing as Senator Mora (Cooper) turns up and gives Brian a shot to stave off the withdrawal symptoms, things are looking up. Except the FBI want Brian to work with them, seeing as he’s the ‘only person who is naturally immune to the side-effects of NZT’. Brian can’t come clean to anyone, since Senator Mora has arranged, by virtue of his Vinnie Jones-like ‘assistant’ Colin Salmon (well cast, by the way), to make Brian’s poor dad all better again. A kidney transplant and a free live-in nurse later, and Brian realises he’s stuck. He has to do as he’s told - work with the FBI and prevent them from working out that Mora is controlling his own supply of NZT - as well as immunity shots.
What the show does is provide crimes almost as a back-drop for his problems, instead of focusing on the actual crime as a reason for the show. And the crime of the week isn’t always a crime of the week; even when it is, it swiftly develops into something that is much bigger than it seemed at the initial outset. Take for example a massive manhunt that a famous profiler had been working on for years. This episode could have been about how Brian gradually realises who the murderer is and how to find \ get him arrested. But the writers are smarter than that - after they’ve spent the episode teaser building up how difficult a case this will be for everyone concerned, they have Brian solve it in a few minutes using the case notes and Google. What that kicks off is a much more elaborate tale, and in the process, leads to a very tense period between commercial breaks as Brian must race to protect Senator Mora’s secret whilst still working on the case at hand - and without arousing suspicion.
Which brings us to tonight’s episode - number thirteen (of season one, allowing for Time Travel Tuesday and you lot reading this long after January 2016). We have a serial rapist, murderer, and all-around evil bastard. But Brian’s subconscious (which has manifested itself in many varied and wonderful ways throughout the series so far) balks at the horrendous crime scene that he’s confronted with. A naked dead woman tied up and covered in blood, one finger cut off, obviously having struggled and fought for life - there’s something in Brian that can’t look at these things, can’t process a scene so ugly and horrific. So his subconscious (a dinosaur, no less) decides that words like ‘rapist’ and ‘murderer’ are replaced with happy euphemisms. Rewind the scene and now the other FBI agents are talking about how the poor woman was the result of a cowboys-and-indians game, how she was hugged so hard she went off to play on that awesome farm out in the sunshine. This continues for the entire episode - and as Brian is in the scene, we hear the euphemisms used by everyone he comes into contact with.
During the episode it’s hilarious - people saying things like ‘she was tied up and tickled until she couldn’t laugh any more’ with absolutely straight faces, the kind of expression you could use to win at poker, as if they're all trying so hard to get that Golden Globe. But once you’ve switched off the TV and tidied up your dinner plates etc., you’re left with an uneasy feeling. What the writers have done is inadvertently (one would hope) taken the details of several women having been murdered in the worst way, and given it a happy spin to make it almost light, fluffy - not serious. Sure, people don’t want that level of horror from something as happy and daffy as ‘Limitless’ - but why sugar-coat it in that way? Why use these crimes at all if you’re not going to treat them with dignity and respect? (I’m sure there are other high level crimes an FBI agent would follow.) A ‘serial hugger’ is not the way I want to hear myself referring to these people - not when ‘hug’ is used to replace ‘rape’. Yes, for the purpose of the episode I did find it amusing - and yes, the perpetrator was found and convicted. But where was the satisfaction at having done a good job and stopped more women from being victims of the same crime? The episode chose instead to focus on how Brian skilfully avoided being corralled by a guest star into collaborating with him to corner a huge book deal. Normally Brian is much more relieved that more people aren’t going to get hurt. But this time? Not really a mention.
He had a lot going on, this episode. But I still think a little moment to think about the victims - even a throw-away line such as ‘it’s terrible I couldn’t have solved this thing before the second victim’, or ‘at least now he can’t do this again’. But nothing.
Maybe that was the real message: Brian solved the crimes, had the correct bad guy arrested, went through all of the evidence even though it was personally harrowing. He did it by choosing to shape his own reality, by doing something as simple as calling something a different name, or seeing it in a different light. It didn’t stop him feeling the horror of it, but it kept him from getting bogged down in evil (something that shows like The Following have failed to do at times) and helped him get it done faster and cleaner. So was it really a bad thing that his subconscious ‘made light’ of the rapes and murders? (And was that what he was really doing? After all, he recognised and felt how awful the crimes were but couldn’t process that level of evil. He understood all too well how serious they were - but he couldn’t face it.) If this approach got the crimes solved faster before the bad guy could strike again, wasn’t it helping, rather than simply reducing the documented crimes to jokey descriptions about playing air guitar and names of ice cream flavours?
I’ve done it again. I’ve made a mountain out of a molehill. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed the episode, and now that I’ve had a chance to think it through, I don’t feel uneasy at all. Brian’s defence mechanism kicked in and helped him solve the heinous crimes. And that’s all there is to it. Perhaps I should do this more in my own life.
On a side note, I can’t wait for next week’s episode.